What It’s Like To Live With High-Functioning Depression

This is what daily life with high-functioning depression is really like.

What High Functioning Depression Or Smiling Depression Feels Like Pexels

By Laura Snelling

I’ve always concealed my depression because I’m what they call “high-functioning.” 

I’m able to hold down a job, go about my day just like everyone else does, and — for the most part — maintain healthy relationships with those around me.

Most people would never guess that I battle depression.

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I have what they call smiling depression.

I love the concept of laughter and smiling with people; brightening someone’s day is my constant goal.

I don’t like sulking in my own sadness 24/7, and I sure as hell hate bringing other people down because of my depression. 

I speak about depression publicly, but only to help end the stigma. 

When someone asks me how I am that day, I’m never honest.

The truth is, nobody actually wants to hear about how incredibly sad I am on a regular basis.

On the outside, people see a happy, bubbly, and carefree woman.

But in reality, they have no idea what’s going on inside my mind.


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I don’t know if it’s ironic, but within the last three weeks, two different people told me that I look so happy with life.

My response to them was a little laugh and the words, “If only you knew, my friend… if only you knew.”

Neither of them know of my history with mental illness, and I wasn’t going to bore them by explaining that the reality is really the complete opposite of their perception.

My depression actually looks like this:

It is pretending that nothing is wrong.

It’s not screaming for help, but instead staying silent.

It is the tears I shed alone because there’s no other way to express my overwhelming amount of emotions.


It’s the plans I cancelled at the last minute because I can’t seem to muster the strength and energy to go do anything.

It is spending my weekends in bed because I’m too exhausted after a week full of pretending.

It’s that dark cloud that hangs over my head and never seems to go away. 

Depression creeps up on me at the most unexpected times.

It lurks around, waiting for something great to happen, then it convinces me that great moment is actually terrible.

I fear happiness, because I know that it will fade away, just like my memories.

It’s foggy memories and a cloudy mind, because I can’t recall important life events.

It numbs me and on the particularly hard days, leaves me unable to function.


The truth is, I’m not happy with my life… at all. 

Nothing inside of me wants to continue living a life riddled with anxiety and consumed by depression and trauma.

I think about death on a regular basis, yet I’m not technically suicidal.

I have those few genuine moments in which my laugh or smile is real.

But for the most part, even when I’m smiling or laughing, I’m breaking on the inside.

Even in those moments of pure happiness, depression still lingers and reminds me that the sadness is greater than the joy. 

RELATED: Feeling Trapped By Your Depression? Here's How Meditation Can Help

I wish I could just tell people how I really feel. 


I wish I could stop pretending.

In all honesty, hiding my depression is the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done.

I’m so tired when I get home each day, but it’s not from sleepless nights or working all day.

It’s from pretending to be happy and bubbly all day long.

No one understands what it’s like to exist in such darkness with no way out, yet forcefully appear happy.

Nobody understands how exhausting it is to put that mask on every single day.

No one understands how badly I just want someone to genuinely ask how I’m doing and listen to me talk about how sad I am.

Because sometimes, talking about my problems and sulking in them aren’t always the same thing.


On the bright side, “smiling depression” has its benefits. 

I’m not the stereotypical depressed person on the antidepressant commercials.

People have a positive view of me instead of judging me for constantly being sad.


Many people say I light up any room I walk into.

It’s comforting to hear, because I don’t want my sadness to bring anyone down when I walk into the room.

Maybe, I smile to try to give myself a glimpse of what it’s like to be happy.

Maybe, I smile to try to convince myself that I’m not actually depressed (even though we all know that’s a lie).

Who knows why I smile?. All I know is that I’ve been like this forever.

I like to think that I won’t have to fake my way through each day for the rest of my life. 

I’ve always hoped that I won’t be this exhausted on a daily basis, just from smiling.

I like to think eventually, someday someone will truly ask me if I’m okay and will listen to what it is that I have to say and express.


Until then, I’m going to keep writing about how I truly feel.

Because that seems to be the only way I can genuinely say how I feel.

Please don’t forget to ask your loved ones how they are doing, and make it clear that you are more than willing to listen to everything, even the messy parts.

RELATED: 6 Questions To Ask Someone You Love When They're Fighting Depression

Laura Snelling is a writer who focuses on health and wellness and self-care content. For more of her self-care content, visit her author profile on Unwritten.